RACE 7: TIZ HE THE ONE (#2)
Expert is the horse to beat as he drops in class. This 5-year-old got into very good form after getting claimed by these owners and trainer Linda Rice in early 2019, reeling off four consecutive victories. However, his finest performance was arguably his runner-up finish to subsequent Grade 2 Suburban winner Preservationist in that May 23 allowance event. He earned a 118 TimeformUS Speed Figure for that effort, which was accomplished over a sloppy, sealed track – likely similar to what he will encounter on Monday at Belmont. While he hasn’t quite been the same horse since returning for Dominick Schettino this year, he’s still capable of producing solid efforts. That said, he will have to improve slightly on his most recent performance when finishing a distant third in an off-the-turf event at Saratoga. I’m using him, but I just didn’t want to bet him as the favorite. The best alternative that I can find is Tiz He the One. Like Expert, this gelding has plenty of back class. He earned TimeformUS Speed Figures of 118 and 119 in late 2018 when winning races at Laurel going this distance. His recent form is a little spotty, and he clearly tailed off when claimed by the Mike Maker barn this summer. However, now his former trainer Linda Rice dips back in to claim him. Over the past 5 years, Rice is 12 for 26 (46%, $2.59 ROI) first off the claim with horses going from sprints to dirt routes. She has to get this runner to improve, but it’s worth noting that his last effort at Saratoga isn’t quite as bad as it seems. He got an uncomfortable trip that day when continually shuffled back racing inside. I think he can rebound here.
RACE 8: BLINDWILLIE MCTELL (#3)
Binkster is a deserving favorite as he drops in class out of the Tale of the Cat Stakes at Saratoga. While he was only meeting four rivals in that spot, it was a classy group and he ran well to finish third just 2 lengths behind the talented Stan the Man. This gelding needed his first start back from the layoff in June when he was off slowly over a wet track, but his two efforts since then have been excellent. If he merely holds his form he’s likely to beat this field. However, he hasn’t always been a winning type and there’s some question about whether he really appreciates a sloppy, sealed track, which he’s likely to encounter on Monday. I think he’s the most likely winner, but there are some legitimate rivals to consider at better prices. One of those is the returning Cost Basis, who showed some promise as a 2-year-old last year. That maiden race that he won in December has proven to be a strong affair. This colt shouldn’t mind turning back to 6 furlongs given his natural tactical speed. However, he will have to handle a wet track and contend with the layoff. Chad Brown is 14-for-70 (20%, $1.29 ROI) off 180+ day layoffs in dirt sprints over the past 5 years, suggesting that these types are often overbet. My top pick is Blindwillie McTell. I’m giving this gelding one more chance to redeem himself after he disappointed at this level last time. He was curiously dead on the board that day, as he drifted up to 4-1 in a race where he figures to be the close second choice to heavy favorite Irish Front. He ran poorly that day, but his prior effort in July was solid. He only lost to today’s rival Binkster by a half-length despite getting a somewhat tentative ride from Jose Ortiz. At one time Blindwillie McTell showed a real affinity for a sloppy track, so I don’t foresee him having trouble with the going here. Furthermore, it’s a little interesting that Irad Ortiz is hopping off Cost Basis to pick up the mount on this guy.
RACE 9: LARCENY (#9)
Seven Is Heaven is the class of this field, but he has some major questions to answer as he returns from a layoff here. This gelding showed real potential early in his career, but he disappointed a couple of times against allowance company over the winter before disappearing. Now he’s returning from a 9-month break and dropping in for this bottom-level claiming price. Over the past 5 years, Linda Rice is 0 for 12 with horses racing first time for a tag off layoffs of 180 days or more. I won’t be shocked if he wins, but I think you’re supposed to take a shot against him. Among those with experience at this level the most reliable option may be Beach Front. This 4-year-old came into solid form upon returning from the layoff this summer, and he’s maintained his edge since moving into the Rob Atras barn. He was facing a tougher field two back, but he ran well when back in for the $16,000 tag last time, finishing third in a paceless race. He’s not always the quickest away from the gate, so he needs a little racing luck, but he figures to be right there at the end. I prefer him to a horse like Dangerous Edge, who could also attract support. Yet he, too, lacks tactical speed and Mike Maker doesn’t have the greatest stats off the claim in dirt sprints. I want to get a little more creative, so I’m going with Larceny. This gelding should be a square price given his trainer’s low profile, but his recent efforts are just as strong as those of the two aforementioned runners. He earned a competitive 96 TimeformUS Speed Figure at this level two back when finishing third behind a pair of superior rivals in Fevola and No Lime. He took some money off that effort when he returned in his most recent start but had the misfortune of running into the class dropper Road to Meath. Some will be deterred by that large margin of defeat, but he’s not meeting any Chad Brown monsters today. Furthermore, he has the tactical speed to get to the front in a race that, for such a large field, lacks much early pace.